For over 11 years now (wow time has flown) I have been chosen by couples to be their belly dancer for wedding events all across Orlando and the state of Florida. During this time, I have learned a thing or two about how to create shows that respect all of the beautiful countries from which my clients hail from, and the level of performance that my clients should expect.
Weddings are one of the most special moments a person will have in their lives, and I can say that from my own experience now that I am married. When planning my own wedding, all of those years of event planning and helping brides and grooms figure out what special touches we could incorporate and balancing each of their culture’s needs came quite in handy.
What if you are a couple that doesn’t belong to a culture that celebrates by hiring a bellydancer? What then? What if you have an affinity for the music and culture but you simply do not know where to start? Read on for help with some of the most common questions I come across from Non-Middle Eastern, North African and Turkish (MENAT) clients.
If you are from the culture and want to incorporate a bellydancer for wedding-related events and of course, the reception, then read on as I have a few creative ways to make your wedding stand out from all of the other weddings you have attended where a bellydancer was present.
Should I Hire a Belly Dancer for Wedding Events?
The answer is just about always YES! Often times non-MENAT brides and grooms will call me telling me that they have an Arabian themed or Moroccan themed wedding and want entertainment and aren’t sure what having a belly dancer at their wedding will be like.
Orlando is a wedding city, it is full of gorgeous venues, a variety of cultural delights and loads of tourists jaja. As such, entertainment can be found everywhere, although private event performances are so much more than the everyday restaurant gig. If you truly want to know what to expect, it is important that you review as much current footage of the bellydancer as possible. Your wedding day is going to be recorded and you want to make sure that when you review the video each year, that every detail and the main bellydance show was absolutely phenomenal.
“Jennifer was very professional and did an amazing performance for my wedding reception. She incorporated various styles and entertained my husband and I and all the guests very well. Thank you Jennifer!” – Dhilona Viland
I can’t tell you how many times I have clients who had horror stories because their friends or they themselves simply didn’t look at video. There are plenty of gorgeous dancers out there. The focus needs to be on a skilled belly-DANCER. Look at our dance technique and style, our charisma and speak with us over the phone. You want to go with someone who has experience, awards, and plenty of weddings under their belt so they make your life stress-free when planning the entertainment at your wedding.
If you aren’t MENAT that is 100% ok! I perform at just as many non-MENAT events as I do for MENAT clients. It is a beautiful and unique form of entertainment that everyone of all ages can enjoy. If you contact me, you will see that I explain the different shows in detail, guide you through what is customary vs. modern, answer your questions and even make life easy by coordinating with your planner and vendors. Hiring an experienced bellydancer to entertain at your wedding is not scary. No need to worry!
Has There Ever Been A Time Where Having a Bellydancer Wasn’t Such a Good Idea At a Wedding?
Yes. If one side of your family is devout Muslim, Morman, or of another religion where having a dancer in a two piece and playing loud music around will cause a commotion, I do not recommend that you hire one for your wedding or events leading up to it. I had one situation a year ago where a friend of the groom hired me to entertain at the wedding reception as a surprise (quite common) and she had heard the brides side was a bit “conservative”. I asked her if they were devout Muslim, if I should wear a dress if they weren’t devout, and any other items that are the norm…the client innocently though the bride’s family was just a little conservative and that a two piece would be fine as she saw my pictures and liked that I presented myself very tastefully always.
Upon entering the reception hall, it became clear that they were in prayer. All music was off, and after the prayer the meal began. I performed and halfway through my show the music was turned off early and the d.j. announced my departure. The bride’s family ended up being HIGHLY devout, and thus bellydance entertainment at a wedding was not suitable. The groom’s side was less conservative and they gave me plenty of smiles and clapping, but all in all, it is important that both sides be fine with this type of entertainment BEFORE hiring the dancer in a scenario such as this. Make sense? Everyone was nice, it simply wasn’t a fit.
What Other Wedding Entertainment Ideas Do You Recommend?
If you want the absolute best entertainment in Orlando, combining a gorgeous bellydance show with live music is simply unbeatable. Everyone can feel the “DUM’s” and “Tak’s” of the Tabla/Darbuka drum as it fills the room and accurately accents the dancer’s movements. As a top bellydancer for weddings in Orlando and across the state, I can tell you without bias, that when I compare the level of energy in a room with a live band accompanying the dancer versus an iPod, the band always wins! The sheer energy, vibrations, and impression it leaves is invigorating.
If having a live band perform with me is out of the question budget wise, enjoying tea and henna is a lovely option in the days leading up to the wedding. I have often taught classes and provided short, lighter shows for pre-wedding events.
If you love the extravagant and want to make your wedding show the wedding of the decade, having an all-out Zeffa at the wedding is quite impressive. Imagine 12-20 musicians in two rows with the bellydancer and wedding party as they walk from the ceremony site to the reception location. Lanterns lighting the way, a shamadan blazing in the front, and the looks of awe as onlookers take this spectacle in.
“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur”
Why Should I Hire Bellydance By Jennifer, Inc. To Bellydance at My Wedding?
This one is easy….
I am a triple crown world champion winner – I flew to Germany for the world championship, and won 1st place in Oriental, 1stplace in Folkore, and 1strunner up in Fusion – I know my stuff!
I have been performing at weddings and event in Orlando and across the country for over 11 years!
My standards are HIGH! If a vendor isn’t doing their job, I will be your personal entertainment police. Everything must be perfect for your show, no exceptions. I take my job very seriously and all of the reviews online are a testament to the level of detail, service, and communication devoted to each and every wedding and event.
The training continues. I have never stopped training. Every 2 months I am taking workshops across the globe, learning new material, studying more in-depth to learn more facts and customs of the various cultures I am learning the dance steps from, and etc. If you pay for a bellydance show, you should expect to see that, not a “Shakira” inspired performance by a novice that is more Latin-inspired than MENAT.
I was an event planner, so needless to say I show up early, I have a contract to not let you down, and every detail is planned for and ready ahead of time so that the day of your show, the entertainment is flawless.
I have worked with many professionals in the industry from planners to D.J.’s to linens to the caterer and etc. While you may be planning your first wedding, this is in the hundreds for me at this point and for many of my wedding partners. Needless to say, don’t stress, I can provide recommendations to help you along the way in creating the perfect wedding day.
Hire a Belly Dancer For a Wedding Party!
Weddings can be quite expensive, I know, I had to make budgetary decisions for my wedding too. But the difference having quality, luxury entertainment makes is quite massive! Personally, I had a live Jamaican trio band for my cocktail hour, followed by a bellydance featuring some Lebanese Debke and then we finished the night off with music from around the world to showcase all of the cultures that we love with our talented DJ. Where some weddings are quiet and simply more of a “dinner”, we wanted to leave guests with a fun experience like no other. If you are ready to do the same with your own unique character and flair, contact me.
Let’s Work Together!
If you are ready to hire a bellydancer for a wedding party or reception in Orlando and beyond, I am call away! If you have grown up where bellydancers are always present at every major wedding, or milestone, let’s work together to make yours over the top and unique. I look forward to working with yu, and please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding your wedding.
Thank you http://backspinentertainment.net/statistics for the data!
After my last performance, I decided that talking about the realities of what happens in preparation for a performance and during might be a fun idea. Many times what people see in the video is sheer acting because there is a hot mess going on! Here are a few stories I thought might lift the veil so to speak of what you think looks like a collected performance, and what was REALLY going on in the making of the belly dance performance. Share it if you love it dancers!
This is my most recent video as of this blog post and oh my gosh the struggle was real with this costume! I had spent weeks trying to find an affordable yet “great for stage” bull-fighter costume and the date of the performance kept drawing closer. I had looked through countless dance performance sites and Halloween costumes and NADA. Finally, I found the costume I wore in my video via EBay and ordered it with 10 days of the show.
Costumes typically have some stretch in them, so I was not concerned. When the package arrived, I was so excited I immediately went to try it on, when to my horror, the pants wouldn’t go past my knees! At this point, I had 5 days until the show and the pants were too tiny. There was NO STRETCH, and the jacket sleeves were too short (but that is typical with me).
I knew that due to my demanding daytime job and teaching schedule that I had no choice but to enlarge this and use my sewing skills to find a solution. I used the corset the set came with to make extensions for the sleeves with the lace. I used the paisley pattern sections of the corset to extend the thighs, and I had a scrap piece of gold fabric I used to extend the waistband. Bear in mind, the pants have NO STRETCH so although I extended the waist, the thigh pieces were much too small still and I could barely walk in it and I needed the waistband otherwise my butt crack would show aaaah! With 3 days to go, I decided to not wear it until the day of the performance/photoshoot to avoid any potential rips.
The entire time I wore the darn pants I was sweating, anxious and just dying inside, hoping that the darn thing wouldn’t rip while I walked to the stage or performed. I even had my dance friends sending me their good thoughts and vibes as I had the worst feeling that the pants were going to rip during the level changes of my performance!! Needless to say, I wore spanks under the darn pants so that even if they were to rip, I would not be exposed.
Thankfully, no rips! I walked off the stage and thanked the universe. After the show ended and group pictures were done, I waddled off the stage in my tight pants, went to the changing room and bashed those pants to a cursing oblivion into my bag jaajaj!
This performance was a complete mish-mosh of what I had and the time available. It was close to a disaster actually jajaj. I had ordered the gymnastics ball a week before (see a trend) as I had been indecisive and the pressure finally forced me to order the prop as I needed SOMETHING to convey the moon I imagined in the story behind the choreography I had in my head.
Then there was the costume. It was completed down to the minute. It was about a month before the show and I could not find anything that fit the moon creature I was envisioning. I ended up using my luxe sequin fabric, extra blue crystals and getting to work (even though I work a million hours already). I needed more fabric and the store was out because of course, I had purchased the fabric in the prior season, ugh! I needed one more skirt panel, so I had to sew two different pieces of fabric together to not only extend the length of the panel of the luxe fabric I had but complete the second panel.
I was stressed with teaching, work, and getting back from my honeymoon. Needless to say, I wanted to tear my hair out as the show was a week away by the time I finished sewing, and I hadn’t created a lick of choreography.
That is where things became worse. I added a bit too much weight to the leg press the weekend before the show and sprained my back!
In a panic, I went to try one of those cortisone injections, but I had an adverse reaction as I never take medications! I was sick for 3 days and the day of the performance I was still quite sore and in pain. I attribute any semblance of a performance in this video to sheer adrenaline, but the pain was real, and I will not be performing injured again. I know better, but I caved and wanted to perform the darn piece just cause. I am sure many a belly dancer is scolding me for performing injured right now. You are right, I have learned.
This performance was so much fun! I love to improvise and simply unleashed. The funny part was what happened after. I was in Colorado, up in the mountains, at an elevation of 13000+ feet I think. I live in Florida…..we are below sea level here. So, there I was, performing for 10 minutes, happy as a clam, and once I finished bowing and began exiting to the changing area (which was in the waaaaaay end of the building) I suddenly felt as if I had just finished a 10-mile marathon! I had the strong urge to cough but had to hold it back while exiting.
I completely lost my breath control, yet had to smile because of course, I am still performing until I am out of sight, and oh my goodness I almost didn’t make it there! I was heaving like I never had before and in a state of shock because of it! Did I eat too much? Did I get too hyper somehow? No, that is what Colorado altitude is like! Woah, I have a whole new level of respect for Sadie and other mountain area dancers. They have lungs of steel living there jajaja!
The screen you see in the video I had ordered way ahead of time and had practiced putting together and timing my choreography with. I arrived in Miami and took my workshops as usual and found my friend Frank (who is the lighting and music tech every year) so that I could tell him about my little prop and vision for that night’s performance.
Needless to say, coming up when the lights would go on when I am behind a screen…not so easy. The lights going on was completely improvised and Frank nailed it pretty well. I was supposed to have more space behind the screen for what I had planned, but pretty much had to stay in place, otherwise, I would disappear behind the screen due to the gap in the back of the stage and the lights!
The costume I wore for the video had literally dried the day before as I was still sewing it last minute too. Oh, the last minute shenanigans with costumes and props! I am definitely seeing an obvious trend as I write this.
I had choreographed this piece to the T. Was super excited to perform it, and even ordered this costume specifically for this piece as I don’t own black costumes (it is my least favorite color). So there I am, ready, in character and mid-performance my song stops!
If you were there, I started being a little silly and then posed with the veil in front as Sound quickly tried to fix the situation. It felt like an eternity standing there in a pose, quite interesting in fact! I see the sound tech mouth to me “can we restart the song?”, and I mouth back “NOOOOO, half-way at least, somewhere half-way please”.
Then in a fraction of a second, some part in the middle of the song occurs and I heard this song so many times that I instantly react and thankfully, my choreography is in the exact count it should be in the music! Yay! This second round could have gone terribly wrong otherwise, but it turned out perfectly. You can see in the video I splice the two parts together.
If you read my book “The Bellydance Competition Handbook: Raq It At Your Next Competition” then you know that I love food. But it was this particular competition where I learned that landing in a foreign country, and trying foreign food a few hours before you compete is a big “no-no”. The food did not sit well, and I was running to and from the bathroom (the theater was the size of a 3 story Walmart- it was huge!) in between competition category performances. In US time it was the wee hours of the morning when I had to compete, and there I am, performing, then running to the restroom just in time to go to the toilet. Oh my goodness, you can only imagine. No fun, but I look back and laugh at this day now.
Well, this is an easy story! The darn rods that came with these wings were metal. I had practiced with them once and wasn’t in love with the weight, but didn’t think anything of it for the performance. I performed with them, and you can see within a minute or so that one of the rods flew out! Thank goodness it didn’t wack anyone (it is hard metal), but the loud and long-lasting noise it made while landing on the floor and rolling back who knows how many rows of seats was painful for me jajaj! I did not post the video for a year because of it! Then after a year, I regained my senses and posted the video. YouTube is my only record of my progress, and I post the good and the bad to keep me working harder. It doesn’t mean that posting less than perfect performances for me has gotten any easier though jaja.
What Did You Think?
Well, there you are, some embarrassing, stressful and funny moments that led up to the videos you see here. I have plenty more, but these really stand out. Make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel if you enjoy my work and story and share your hilarious stories and pertaining video too!
As I announced a couple of months ago, this year marked my 10th year as an Orlando Bellydancer. I adore this city and all of the possibilities this market has made possible due to the fact that all the theme parks are nearby, there is a melting pot of cultures that have moved here, and all of the exotic cuisine that has made Orlando a foodie destination. All of these things along with a strong belly dance community has created the perfect recipe to be able to have tried a bit of everything.
10 Years in A Nutshell
Ten years ago, I was traveling an hour each way to take belly dance classes. I was in college, didn’t know anyone, and became drawn to this dance form as it was challenging and fun. Fast track to a year later and I was working as a bellydancer for tourist/convention patrons. I worked there for 6 years and really “got my chops” while there. I had to entertain during a 3-hour shift. It was my crash course into how to become not just a better belly dancer, but a strong entertainer and business woman.
During this time, I continuously trained. No matter how much school I had, belly dancing became my escape and haven. I trained very hard as I soon went from simply dancing at a restaurant to formulating the goal of becoming the best dancer I could possibly be and breaking out of my city. I then began training for a while, then started competing, then winning, and winning some more and from there had 2 full years of teaching workshops and traveling (2013-2015). It was amazing, but not without sacrifices.
In those first 7 years, I dealt with the criticism, jealousy and backstabbing many of us know all too well. It seems that most “intermediate level dancers” (this is what I will call it) go through this “rite of passage” during this time. We aren’t good enough dancers to be highly respected for our craft yet, but we aren’t beginners either, and it seems everyone was just trying to beat me down. I kept going, and trained harder, as I knew my goals, and I wasn’t going to stop.
On a personal basis, I finished school, went through a horrible relationship, but then found an amazing one, and then began working as an SEO specialist by day, on top of being a performer by night.
My First Shift in My Bellydance Career
Then I had to shift. It had been 6 years- 7 years by this time, and performing at restaurants had made me miserable for the past couple of years. I begin focusing intently on just private performances and building up my student base. What you focus on materializes, and so it did. I was teaching 12-15 private classes by day (I quit my day job in order to train and compete for world, which paid off jaja) and was thinking of opening my own studio.
I started meeting with a business consultant, researched studio owner friends of mine, and realized that was not the lifestyle I wanted. Teaching, although I was deemed “successful” due to how may private classes I had was not giving me the income I envisioned myself having, nor the other items I desired. I really like teaching, and still do, but my goal is first and foremost to be a performer.
What It Feels Like Physically 10 Years Later
My body, after 10 years is not what it was when I was 19. I wake up tired the night after a gig. Even though I am very healthy and use a roller to not feel sore the next day, it is simply one difference that is clear to me now. My arthritis affects things and so does 10 years of constant use of my terrible back jaja. I will continue to dance until I can’t anymore, but just a few differences from then till now that are worth mentioning.
Take care of your bodies dancers. You are never too young to learn about movement modifications, how to eat to correctly fuel your body, rollers, massage benefits and oh yes, the ever-important chiropractor.
10 years ago, I was confident but had no life experience. Now I feel much more confident in myself as a woman, a wife and business mogul. I have traveled quite a bit for my young age, have worked so many jobs and worn so many hats. I now am married and have 3 dogs and a house, and family to think of. I love where things are headed, and with it, my priorities and goals are now shifting yet again.
My Next Shift as An Orlando Bellydancer
The overall goal is the same (be the best darn dance performer possible). The shift is now due to time and having to prioritize it further. I want my upcoming 30’s to mark a period of “less hustle” and more specialization in what I intend to fiercely master. A hyper focus on both advancing further in my day job as an SEO specialist, and taking over the private events market is where I am headed.
I have reduced my classes down to 4 sessions per week as I cannot fit anything else with my two “jobs”, and may have to further reduce as I shift into my daytime role more. I am taking dance classes in other genre’s too in order to cross train and become a stronger dancer. I intend to sink deeper into folklore studies to further enrichen my modern fusion style and continue to make it more unique.
I plan to continue recording what I have learned along the way and uploading it onto my online studio so that it can reach others. Instead of uploading weekly or monthly, it will be every quarter or more depending on my schedule (sorry but not sorry). My top 2 goals are my main focus. video recording is something extra when i have the time from now on. If I knew ten years ago, what I knew now, boy would that have made things much easier jaja. But nothing comes without hard work. I look forward to what I will learn in the next decade, and where I will be then.
I feel like I “get” Bellydance now finally after 10 years. I spent the decade finding what made me, well, me, and now I have it down to a science. Honing those superpowers in and creating magic with them is where it must be pushed to next.
10 Years of Lessons Learned
I look back and the past 10 years, while full of sacrifice, were wonderful. It gave me a thick skin, it allowed me to find my voice within this genre, and to try everything and be fearless in my business. After 10 years, I now choose to say no to items that do not fit the specific 2 goals I have. It is the best feeling to say no sometimes too. By 2018 I will have reduced my services down to only those that will lead to my end goal.
Some of the things I learned in the past 10 years:
– How to apply makeup (I sucked at it before)
– How to efficiently manage time
– How to produce products and services
– How to create strong performances
– To keep my mouth shut online. The online world can take a sentence and interpret it in too many unforeseen ways
– How to sew costumes
– How to teach workshops. I took me almost all my years to figure this one out. I finally got it down last year after so many blunders and surprises. I am not good at flip flopping in choreo. To the back I face jajajaj!
– How to select the people I let into my inner most circle. I know who my besties are, my hang out friends are, acquaintances and etc. are. Surrounding yourself with good people is all that matters. Anyone negative gets booted. Fake people I just smile and ignore.
– Family is simply an amazing thing to have. I have gone from being a teenager and constantly being angry with my parents to them being my best friends and idols.
– How to love… at 19 I didn’t know what real love was. I thought I did, but now I see the difference. My husband means so much to me. He has been here for 8 out of my 10 belly dancing years and seen me at my worst and how I have risen through all obstacles.
– I learned to not be afraid of the word “no” or of “failing”. If someone says no, not a problem, I will ask another and another until I find my answer.
– In the past ten years, I realized just how much the dance is still evolving. What once was just under the umbrella of “bellydance” in my innocent mind is divided into so many styles and creations. The dance has evolved quickly in the past century, and some groups are not taking it lightly. This too shall pass, but education is where we can all meet at the same level. That Is what must remain constant in order to preserve some of the roots. Be creative, be unique, or be a downright “purist” for all I care, just educate yourself first.
– In the past ten years, I realized just how quickly time passes. It is sooo fast. I am shifting my business now to really focus on the two most important business aspects of my life and then taking the rest of the time to a balance more personal time with family and friends. This is the balance I have longed for, and now will create by 2018.
– In ten years, I learned to use technology. At 19 I didn’t want a cell phone or even have a serious email account. Now I am an SEO specialist. Who knew?
– I have learned that I will never settle. I constantly seek change, improvement, the next step. Anyone that can’t handle that search for perfection…well, they get the boot jaja. I am Pisces, it is how I roll. I am caring less and less what others have to say about me. I am me. If you don’t like me, you get the boot lol!
– It is ok to be a little more sexy. This is constantly a struggle with me. I wore my first “sexy dress” for performance the other week. It took 10 years to get to that point, to not feel shy about wearing something like that on stage. For many it isn’t a big deal, but for me, that clearly took a lot of time to do jajaj.
All in all, this Orlando Bellydancer took the past 6 months from Powhow, workshops, and teaching to really examine all of the facets of her life and business and obtain clarity for the next decade to come. I hope you all continue to examine and re-examine your goals and priorities as you change or move into your next role.
All my 10+ year dance sisters and brothers, what has been a pivotal change from 10 years ago to now? Comment below or answer this on my Facebook page.
Right now, I am at a time in my life where everybody change is being felt, and I am more aware than ever of how my body reacts to certain stimuli. I often hear non-dancers talk about their evenings, their stresses, their lives….and I often wonder to myself, how nice to have all that time, but I wouldn’t trade the bellydance life for anything in the world.
What delves deep into my thoughts today is how bellydance keeps us young, vivacious and looking our best compared to how we might be if we didn’t partake in the dance life. If I were to imagine my life without belly dance, it would be a lot less sparkly and exciting I think. Not only would I be in business attire by day and then pajamas once home, but my nails, hair, physique, health habits and so much more would be completely different. I am guessing this may be the same for many of my fellow dance brothers and sisters out there too.
Who I Was Before Dance
My entire life, before I joined the dance world, I was confident. I never had issues there. I always identified as being the good girl, the academic, the nerd, the musician, the funny one. Then I joined dance in my adult years and realized that on stage I could be anything. It was liberating.
No longer did I have to be a computer nerd by day, I could transform and be artistically free by night. This, in turn, creates a balance, an awareness, and to some extent, an energy that can be felt by others.
I had to learn about makeup, how to dance, how to grow stronger, create a brand persona and how to improve my physique to further my abilities. Quickly everything from what I ate, to how I breathed and walked blended into my daily life.
And the end result? I always feel younger than what I am, and when I watch so many of my amazing peers and inspirations on stage, it seems this almost turns back the clocks and brings on an energy unlike anything else.
How Bellydance Keeps Us Young
Part of the fun in this industry is the amount of networking and events we partake in. Bellydancers, in general, must learn to be quite charismatic with strangers in order to raise the energy in a room. There is a special energy we carry, and often times it translates into a more youthful and young impression. While the normal person is watching t.v., we gawk at videos and randomly dance in public without realizing Jaja.
Dressing up means wearing a fancy dress and going to a fancy occasion every blue moon for non-dancers. In our industry, working dancers dress up every week in beautiful designer costumes, accessories, makeup, and hair. Our loved one’s see us glam up consistently and because of our job, we must maintain our appearance in tip top shape. Clients expect it, the photographs and videos immortalize it all, so whether it is a chipped nail or sloppy tresses, those things simply can’t be left like that. Bellydancers have to constantly keep their visual appearance up to standard so they do not look unkempt for their audience.
This means that while the normal person can go weeks without a manicure or pedicure for example (no one would notice it probably), working dancers would simply never get away with such a thing. Weekly touch ups are part of the routine Jaja.
Attention to Physique is pretty important I feel for many working belly dancers. We need to make sure our bodies are healthy and strong to ensure longevity in this career. Whether you supplement with yoga, the gym, stretching exercises or anything else, working dancers know that staying strong and injury free is a must. We often become more and more aware of what our body is going through, and become quite sensitive and learn to listen to it much better over time.
Spill The Beans!
What do you think life would be like if you had not chosen dance? How would you balance the need to be artistically free? Would you be as aware of your body as you are now? I wonder? Dish it, everyone! How does bellydance keep you feeling young? Contact me today if you would like to learn more about bellydancing.
I have not unveiled the final images as I am needing to add a few more canvases and curtains to my space, but in the meantime, I thought I would share some of my answers I gave from messages and emails online. Designing a home bellydance studio does not have to be crazy expensive, although it will be an investment nonetheless. Here are the main components of my studio listed and the why and how behind it.
Mirrors: Craigslist is my best friend. I bought three 4×8 mirrors from Craigslist for $125.00 this is a huge bargain compared to buying the same amount of mirrors new. Used mirrors are not perfect, mine was left outside and covered in overspray from painting, but with a $6 pack of mirror blades and some elbow grease, these beauties were restored to almost new. $125 is just about what you would spend on mirror sliding closet doors which are much smaller in comparison, so it is a heck of a deal. You can find used dance or gym mirrors on Craigslist quite easily, so get on there and stalk the threads for a month until the perfect one comes around.
LED Lights: The LD lights I placed around my mirrors were not expensive at all. In fact, they cost $12 on Amazon! These beauties come in a variety of colors, shine very brightly, and are super lightweight and easy to shape. I used invisible tape to adhere it to my mirror molding and it works great. The LED wire is very long, so you have quite a bit of room to space with the configuration.
Artwork: I LOVE Hobby Lobby! This ginormous warehouse of home décor is the perfect place to find great deals and pretty much everything you need to decorate.
Molding: This is NOT cheap. In fact, the molding was a big splurge, but my oh my does it make the mirror looked finished and polished against the wall. Very worthwhile investment to give a more professional look and add character. There are beautiful designs. I chose a braided style as I wanted something unique and not basic. Cost me $160 for decorated molding.
Storage and Shelving: My students often come in with their show bag, notebook, purses, and water. I found an inexpensive solution of where to store my fabrics, products and offer storage to guests in the cube shelf organizers from Home Depot. There was a sale when I bought them for 30% off, so it only cost me $35 for a large sized one. There are perfectly fitting cloth bins that become drawers in each cube, and that is where one can store their needed items.
Flooring: This was a headache in the beginning, and then I found out about Lowes flooring program. Basically, you purchase the materials, and the Installation is paid for by Lowes! They charge a few fees of course, but no tax is added to your bill! They take care of everything. You pick your floor, your underlayment, and then a professional comes out and measures your space. Once the measurements are registered into their system an appointment is made with the installers. Once your flooring arrives, installers come to your home and assemble it to perfection. Pretty simple and easy.
Dance studios are pretty simple, but I thought I would share just my own take on it and the vendors I used. If you are dreaming of designing your own home bellydance studio, it will not break the bank so long as you are ready to put in some work. Hope you enjoyed this blog, and make sure to subscribe and visit my online studio Savvy Bellydancers to stay up to date on the latest!
This week I have a special treat for all the readers around the world. I had the pleasure of interviewing Sal Maktoub on his experience as a tannoura artist and what the industry is like now. Why? In my Make Me Amazing Program, level 3 deals with learning regional dance styles and props. One lecture is about Sufism, Zaar and Tannoura. As always, the more research that is done, the more questions that are produced. Enjoy this educational and insightful article about tannoura by the amazing tannoura artist, Sal maktoub!
In Your Words, What is the Tannoura Scene like in Egypt Right Now?
It Is one of those things that I have come to realize living there that there is always a demand for, even though people don’t care about it too much. With the tannoura shows, you can have that entertainment year-round, even during Ramadan, but it is not so much that people are really into it. It is simply something that is expected to be seen and accepted by society. For example, in Egypt, not everyone wants to go see a belly dancer. Bellydance is expected to be seen and part of the traditional celebrations, but people don’t view them with a high amount of respect, it is the same with us.
The guys that do Tannoura and are considered the authority on it, are part of Al Tanoura Troupe. The performers in this troupe typically have a minimum of 3 shows a week, and also travel outside the country. If you are part of that troupe, you are considered to be the real deal, mainly because their shows are both entertaining and religious.
I would say that compared to belly dance and other entertainment types, that this is the art that is more accepted. It is the one type of performance that can cross that fence between being strictly entertainment or show the religious route.
When it comes to things like Zaar, people think of it as taboo or black magic. Tannoura on the other hand, has the entertainment factor which helps elevate it above the Zaar.
What Inspired You to Go to Egypt and Obtain a Performance Contract?
I always wanted to go. Ancient Egypt was my fascination as a kid. When I went for the first time it was 6 years ago (2011). I fell in love with everything there. I went after the first revolution, so I had no point of referent as to how things were (Egyptians would exclaim that things were better before the revolution). After that first trip, something within me said I had to go back. When I came back, I made sure to have money saved in case no opportunities came about. My main drive for taking that trip was that I just wanted to be a student again. I had been teaching for a few years and I wanted to be a student again, and I didn’t have anyone here or any place to learn the topics I wanted to dive into. What better place than the birth place of it all?
On this second trip, I focused on the musical aspect of the Tannoura. I learned about playing the Saggat (the big ones). I didn’t go looking for a contract per say, it just kind of happened. Friends of friends of friends said that there was an opportunity, so I took the chance. I figured, “you might as well go to Sharm el-Sheikh and get some experience”. The opportunity was priceless and I had to learn very quickly! You have to perform 3,4,5 shows a night, and you don’t really have a day off and the timing is very different. You have to know your skill level to be able to accommodate all that stuff. There is no preparing for it, they just throw you to the wolves.
Tell Me About Sufism Through Your Eyes
Mystic, I think would be the first word that would come to mind. I wouldn’t say that what I do is Sufism and that Tannoura is Sufism. The Turkish style with the artist dressed in white is more of that type to me. As far as the spinning goes, if you do it the right way, with the right technique, you can definitely kind of escape. You just go into another world! And when you come out of it, you feel light and elevated and that you connected to something else that wasn’t down here.
As far as Sufism in Egypt, I know that it exists (they have celebrations for the birthdays of prophets and “saints” where Tanoura Dancers perform). I haven’t experienced those though so I cannot speak much about it. I will say that this is where things get controversial because it goes back to that “religious thing” and Islam.
Are the Majority of Tannoura Artists You Have Come Across Today Practitioners of Sufism or Not?
I wouldn’t say that being a Sufi practitioner is seen as a good thing in Egypt. Because the vast majority of people are Muslim, that line is kind of blurred. It is a religious dance, and If someone WERE a Sufi practitioner, I don’t think they wouldn’t come out and say it.
Historically, Sufi’s Would Attend Rigorous Training for Years at Tekkles. What Was Your Training Like?
The Tannoura troupe is the authority on this. They do both shows (the religious and entertainment ones). They are not very open to everyone coming to train. They take it super seriously, and not something to be exploited by foreigners. As far as my background, I actually trained with Mohammed Kazafy’s assistant (his name is Meedo) who is also part of Reda troupe. He basically said, “put on the skirt, put your feet in this manner, and make it your constant”. Just like how you shimmy and are then able to layer on top of it, that is how the footwork and technique must be.
I remember that first week of training. Not only that, but I found a video of me recently from that first week and it looks like such a disaster. Once I came back to the States, I just had to keep what I learned going for myself and the right spinning eventually happened. I added a skirt, and then another skirt, and then juggled the daffouf (multiple daff). I use flags now and I do the Saggat now with the spinning as well. I have to keep pushing to do more and try something different to keep me challenged.
I am not Middle Eastern or Egyptian. My biggest compliment is when I am told “enta masri“, which means, “you are Egyptian”. It is not that I want to fool people into thinking I’m Egyptian, I just want to do it right, so that I am just as good.
When I go back to Egypt, I pick someone different to learn from every time.
What Is It About the Whirling That Attracts You the Most?
It was that show that I went to in Al Ghuri during my first trip that really affected me. The first year I went I was going to go to London immediately after for a competition. Part of the competition requirements was that you had to perform an Oriental during preliminaries, and if you made it to finals, you had to dance a folkloric piece.
When I talked to Kazafy he asked me, “what do you want to do?”. I told him initially that I wanted to do a Saidi piece. He looked at me and said, “do you know such and such?” I replied that I heard of him, but I didn’t know him personally. The reason Kazafy brought it up was because he knew that “such and such” was going to be performing a Saidi also, and he has been doing it for a lot longer. I took the hint, and asked suggested to Kazafy, “what about Tannoura?” Kazafy was like, are you sure you want to do Tannoura?” He asked me several times if I was sure, as he knew the connotations that it carried in Egypt. Once I assured him that yes, I was indeed sure, he set me up with the costuming, training and etc., so part of how I came to Tannoura was the motivation for competition.
What is the Difference (in Your Words) Between the Whirling Dervishers, Tannoura Artists, and the Moroccan Guedra?
To me, the Turkish whirling dervish is the purist form of it all. The continuous repetition has everything to do with the dancer being the connection between the earth and the sky. As far as tannoura, it can be strictly entertainment, where you add all of the different props. On the religious side of it, it is done for reverence, but more of a communal thing compared to the whirling dervishes of Turkey.
In the Turkish Sema ritual, each Sufi is its own star, and they all spin in the same direction around each other, much how the planets and stars revolve in our galaxy. But looking at the Egyptians form from a religious standpoint, there is one principle dancer in the center, and then a circle of other dancers around him, and then the musicians along the backside of the dancers, and the audience completing the circle in front of the dancers. The energy is all encompassing, and you feel like you are part of the show, part of the universe or the galaxy. Whereas with the Turkish format, the energy is between the guys, in their own space.
The Guedra I honestly don’t know too much about, but what I can say as far as all three is that it is all about reverence and connecting with a force higher up.
What is the Latest Fad in Tannoura Performance? Glow in the Dark and Blacklight Paint Has Been Popular as Well as LED Costuming for Some Time. What is “In” Now?
Right now, it has everything to do with the costuming. Things are a lot more intricate, even the galabeya have embroidery on the sleeves and on the cuffs. The vests now have more of a shape, as it protrudes out from the shoulders a little bit. It has an inverted triangle shape coming down is the new silhouette and the lights are now too much! The lights make us look like a Christmas tree with many colors. It is definitely changing as far as the style of the costuming. The headpiece and galabeya are so intricate.
As far as the skirt, the designs change over time. I feel like right now they are looking at the older styles of tannoura fashions and bringing it back, but using new materials.
Could You Share With Our Readers About Your Background?
I am a complete foreigner. For me, when I started, they told me “we know that you think this is something that is cool, but here in Egypt, you won’t be someone who will be respected”. But for our industry (belly dance and performance in the United States), yeah it does set you apart. That was always something that stayed with me in the back of my mind. “This is just going to be for the entertainment value” they said. I wanted for myself to know more, and for it to become more than that. As with all art and artist, the goal is to move your audience, to make them feel something. And this had always been my objective when I perform.
For me, what definitely helped the most was learning the language, learning the music, and learning the tannoura show in El Ghouri. I used to see that show 2 times a week when I was there. And every time I would notice something different. For example, how the singer with just the use of language could control the energy of the room. It definitely comes down to the language. That is the way to get a hold of the culture, because you really understand the communication and it is not superficial.
How Much Do These Costumes Cost? Thousands?
For a good costume with everything, I have spent a pretty penny, and this is just on the essentials. It doesn’t include the extra props I’ve included in my shows (flags, sagat,LED lights, etc.)
Talk To Me About The Colors. They Used to Represent the Orders. How Do You Choose What Colors To Wear?
I look at the colors from more a design standpoint. There was only one costume where I was concerned about the colors as I wanted it to represent anyone from the Middle East (there flags all have white, black, and red). I would be fake if I did select colors based upon an order as I don’t know enough and I am not a sufi or part or an order. In Egypt it’s the same, things are looked upon from a design viewpoint. The only color that has any significance is the color green as that is the color for God.
How Do You Not Get Dizzy or Fall Over?
One of the best complisults (a compliment and an insult at the same time) I got was “your performance was so good, I had to look away otherwise I would have thrown up”. Do I get dizzy? No. How you hold you head, how you do the technique, this is what will keep you from becoming dizzy. There are times you can’t spot during tannoura, but one thing I learned was that l if you start spotting, you end spotting you’ll be alright.
Talk To Me About Female Tannoura Artists. Is This Becoming a “Thing”?
The new thing now is the girl dervishes. They don’t have the power the guys have as far as execution goes, but I can name at least 3 that are making a mark. They perform, and that is ok over there (in Egypt). One of the women tannoura artists I know is the sister of one of the guys that trained me when I went to Egypt. She was young and not married yet. One of the girls that came from the Luxor troupe did both styles (entertainment and the religious aspect).
About Sal Maktoub:
Sal Maktoub is an internationally acclaimed instructor and performer in Middle Eastern dance and folklore. His time spent within the Arab culture and community in the Middle East bring to his classes and shows very authentic, unique qualities that create a dynamic style that is very much his own. Most renowned for his Egyptian Tanoura show, Sal is the only performing professional of this mesmerizing dance on the North American continent.
Make sure to visit his website: http://salmaktoub.com. LIKE his page, and follow him on Instagram and Snapchat by searching fro “Sal Maktoub”.
As the years have gone by, the weddings I perform for have shown one consistent trend, and oh is it beautiful! Over and over again I am booked by brides and grooms who are from completely different cultural backgrounds. It is wonderful to see how love crosses borders and enrichment it adds to the mix here in the United States. When couples call me to have the top Bellydancer in Orlando perform at their transnational wedding, I couldn’t be happier.
Since I began performing at weddings in 2007, figuring out how to showcase the beauty of Middle Eastern dance and allow it to also honor my client’s background has been a formula I strove to perfect. After trial and error, I have had much success for many years with this, and over 95% of my couples have been happy and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.
So how do I do it? How Do I perform belly dance and then flip it over to a completely different genre effortlessly? I won’t give all my secrets away but here is what I can tell you…
Music Choice Needs To Be Perfect!
When I have a transnational wedding I begin by asking my bride and groom about their heritages. What customs and favorite songs do they have? What colors do they think of? Were they born in that country and lived there the majority of their life or are they 2nd generation?
Based on the answers I tailor the music so that it is 60% – 70% belly dance music and 30% – 40% songs from my couples respective countries. With over 9 years of music collection and counting, I have a pretty impressive collection that is neatly organized by country and even regional dance style within it! The OCD is very helpful in these scenarios jajaj.
In the event that I do not find a song from one couple’s side that I feel I can pull off using bellydance (Irish music, Russian club music, country), I will always alert my bride and groom and select music from the other’s culture. It is important that as the performer I feel I can mesh the two seamlessly into my show, otherwise, it will look odd.
The vast majority of the time, I have a collection my couple enjoys and they make their suggestions as well. It is a beautiful medley of music.
Colors and Props
Prop and color selection is also highly important. In some culture, the color white alludes to death while in others it is tied to marriage. I am acutely aware as a top bellydancer in Orlando for weddings, as to what colors various cultural backgrounds like for their celebrations and make sure to wear a tone that works for both!
Prop selection also plays an important role in my shows as some cultures like props that reference more militaristic themes while others have a long history of loving certain fabrics. For example, if I have a Japanese bride, I will often utilize a dance with silk veils or fans in my show as the culture really values silk and the elegance and flow it exists. If her groom is from Iraq, I will utilize daggers or sword as daggers are a part of traditional dances and customs there.
When you hire a top bellydancer in Orlando for transnational weddings like me, the experience and knowledge and level of skill are what you are paying for. How many bellydancers out there have actually studied so many regions so deeply? Taken the time and money to invest into this at a high level? The answer is very few. This is what has led to my huge success over the years.
If you would like to hire this bellydancer in Orlando for your wedding, please contact me today and make sure to visit my wedding reception page here while you are at it.
Today I spent the day selecting paint colors with my husband and it is amazing the effect that a color can bring to spectators. When I was in marching band, the color guard would dance around with their flags and it wasn’t until I would review the performance video with the band, where I could truly see and appreciate how much the flag colors strengthened the music and feeling we trying to emote on the field. This concept is true when it comes to selecting your bellydance power color.
Bellydance can bring about the same experience. Whether it is through our costuming, props or use of makeup and accessories, the color you choose plays an important role in strengthening the message behind the energy you are emitting.
I spent an hour with my sister this past weekend choosing eyeshadow colors and a fun makeup palette simply because I wanted colors that would work better with my skin tone and make me appear tanner (simply because the shade selected would create that visual effect).
How many times have you worn a costume and someone from the audience or a fellow dancer says “wow, that is DEFINITELY your color”? Chances are that when you wear that color you feel more beautiful, more vibrant, or more confident (perhaps all three jaja).
Look Like the Music
When we think of the song we chose to dance to make sure your costuming, makeup or props look like the music. Select a color that not only helps to strengthen the message/emotion behind the music but is a shade or tone of that color that makes you radiant. For example, if you are doing a bellydance flamenco fusion piece and your song is strong, aggressive and full of drama, select a color that embodies that! Then take find the perfect shade of that general color that will make you radiate. That will be your b.ellydance power color!
Don’t Make the Innocent Mistake…
When you costume or makeup shop, bring a friend, and ask for their honest opinion. I have worn colors that made me look downright sickly in the past. I used to tan, and now I do not, and that has greatly affected what colors actually work with me and against me when in full regalia.
If you are alone, ask a random shopper for their opinion or a store attendant. It will save you from wasting money and time. Frankly, because of my color deficiency, I tend to go for brighter tones and will ask anyone around me for a second opinion to make sure what my eye see’s and what the general consensus is, matches.
Over the years it seems I have received the same compliments over the same colors: jewel tone green, warm orange, cobalt blue, and lavender.
Don’t know what your bellydance power color is? Go ahead and ask. I hope that this post will help you create more flow between the music and you visually on stage and will inspire you to take a few more color risks.
If you are a pet owner, then you know just how happy your pets make you. Over the course of the 8 years that I have been a mother to my Italian greyhounds, I never stopped to realize just how integral to my belly dance career they have been…until now.
My fur babies have been with me through it all. From an intermediate belly dance student who was looking to go professional, to now where my business has matured and is consistent and fruitful. Through every failure and every triumph, they have been there.
When I come home my little ones are the first to greet me every day. Their enthusiasm and love never weakens and brings light to my day. Every practice I have done at my home, they have been there watching, at times distracting me as they look for rubs as I am trying to stretch, or barks when I am at my most frustrated choreographically.
How many times have you come home from performing at a gig, tired, hungry, and ready for a shower, and your fur pets are delighted to see you and want nothing but affection? This positive reinforcement day in and day out through practices, rehearsals, marketing, writing, telephone calls and the daily grind is indeed something to be thankful for.
I can’t imagine having gotten through so much without their antics. Even at my most frustrated, my pets have always found a way to make me laugh, stop in my tracks, and simply appreciate the little things and remind me that life is much bigger than that moment that may be causing distress.
For all you belly dance pet owners out there, take a moment if you are reading this to say “thank you” to your fur-kids. Give them a sincere hug and squeeze. They are only on this earth for so many years, and for many out there, have seen us through this marvelous journey we call belly dance.
When we are at our happiest, they have been there to cuddle and celebrate with us. When we have been at our worst, they patiently waited and comforted us.
Even though they can’t speak a lick of our language, they understand our crazy dance loving ways. So what if my puppy bit my performance veil? I may have been mad for a bit, but at the end of the day, what first world problems we have!
My torn veil is a reminder of just how small my first world problems are. There is so much to be thankful and my pets are constant reminders to not sweat the small stuff and look at the bigger picture.
If you are a belly dance pet owner out there, please share your most memorable moment in which your fur-baby was there for you in your belly dance journey. I can’t wait to hear it!
To learn more about me visit my About Page, and I hope to hear from you all in the comments below. Have a happy and save New Year Belly Dance Pet Owners!
It is that time of year again…the time where we are searching for the perfect bellydance gift idea, and holiday deals that make us feel good! This year, if you are searching for presents for your dance friend or to treat yourself, here is my 2016 blowout sale!
I have a limited number of book copies, DVD copies available, and the “Psoas I was saying DVD companion” is now available too. To spread some holiday cheer you can now purchase all three (usually a $65 value), of only $39.99.
Only $39.99! Your book alone is $30!
Yes, perhaps I have gone a bit mad, but I had an amazing year because of all of your support, and with the few stock items that are left, I simply want to give back in some small way and offer this ridiculous limited time offer. Once the stock items are gone, that’s it.
Take advantage of this ridiculous price today and enjoy these in-depth, candid, and heartfelt materials to help you in your dance journey. The holiday Bundle is an amazing bellydance gift idea that is sure to put a smile on your fellow dancer’s face. Happy holidays, and if you have any questions do not hesitate to contact me.
To purchase simply click on the button below. Hard copies of the bundle are available for US orders, while digital copies only of all the materials are available for international orders. The sale ends on January 1st so do not delay! Only a limited quantity of copies are left of the Bellydance Competition Handbook & Shimmy on The Downs DVD.re
So go on, treat yourself or your loved one to a unique gift that will help improve their dance skills, share valuable insights and lead to a more successful 2017!